Why do we age— gene, mutation and wear and tear

In our past posts, we discussed two predominant theories of aging—oxidative damage caused by free radicals and age-related natural hormonal decline. This post will cover a few remaining theories on aging.

The genetic theory of aging: Anecdotally, we’ve all noticed that some people age better than others. A few weeks ago, I was at a woman-attorneys gathering. The talk inevitably turned into the topic of aging. One commented how great Christie Brinkley looked at the age of 60 and how unfair if people start assuming she would be the new look of 60. Yes, life is not fair and you can blame it on your genes.

According to the genetic theory of aging, aging process and life span are determined by specific genes that humans inherited, which are often called longevity assurance genes.  The understanding of the role that genes play in aging has expanded significantly in recent years. Many genes, including SIR2, daf-2, daf-12 and PNC1, are found to influence longevity in different organisms. Other studies looked at the association between longevity and genes involved in the metabolism of cholesterol (CETP) and the ApoE2 variant of the gene for alpolipoprotein E.

The immunological theory of aging: Research has shown that as human age, the immune system declines. The most prominent targets of aging are the white blood cells called T-cells, and to a lesser degree, B-cells, which decline in number and function.  The changes are closely associated with the atrophy of the thymus, a biological structure active in the production of T-cells. Thymus begins to shrink in adolescence.  The increase in the incidence of disease with age is also considered the result of the decline of the immune system.

So how to counter age related immune system decline? Research has shown that short sleep, lack of exercise and bad dietary habit can all cause immune system depression.  So, make sure that you have plenty beauty sleep, get moving, start chomping down immune system boosting food such as fruits and vegetables, fresh garlic, and mushrooms and supplementing wisely with immune boosting vitamins and herbs.

The somatic mutation theory of aging: Somatic mutations are mutations that occur in the body. These mutations are different from the mutations that occur in egg or sperm cells and will be passed to offspring. Somatic mutations affect only the individual and cannot be passed to future generations. According to the theory, somatic mutations that are not corrected or eliminated in the course of life, accumulate, eventually causing the cells to malfunction and die. The accumulation of somatic damage is considered the main cause of the aging process by the proponents of the theory.

This theory is closely related to the oxidative damage theory we posted before. Oxidative damage and stress are two key factors for somatic mutations.  To counter the effect, load up with antioxidants and learn techniques to de-stress. Recently, a friend of mine told me “the stress is really all in your mind.” I agree—no matter how busy we are, we can deal with tasks and solve problems. However, the anxiety associated with dealing with problems is really just in our mind. Stress is psychological. Learn to control it, you will feel better and look better too.

The wear and tear theory of aging: the wear and tear theory of aging suggests that the deterioration associated with old age is caused by failures in multiple physiological systems, resulting from a variety of physical stresses. Human bodies have the capacity to repair DNA damage, but not all of these repairs are accurate or complete; thus, the damage accumulates progressively. Accordion to the theory, aging results from an accumulation of unrepaired wear-and-tear.

What is the take home message from these theories? Stuff gets worn, so does human body.  Aging is inevitable—however, a good life style choice and smart dietary supplementation could help to slow it down.

Thanks for reading!

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